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Off-duty EMT, nursing student treat shooting victims in S.C. mall

Before first responders could arrive, Kimberly Stubbs left the barbershop where she works to help the wounded


Many people left the Columbiana Centre as police were investigating the shooting.

Photo/Justin Smith/Associated Press

Noah Feit
The State

COLUMBIA, S.C. — “I just wanted to help.”

That’s what Kimberly Stubbs said the day after she provided medical aid to a woman who was hit by gunfire in the shooting at Columbiana Centre.

Stubbs is an employee at No Grease Barbershop in the Columbia shopping mall. She’s also a nursing student at Midlands Technical College.

Stubbs was working at the barbershop’s front desk Saturday afternoon when the shooting happened.

After a slow start to the day, Stubbs said business at the barbershop and foot traffic in the mall was picking up by 1 p.m. People were out shopping on the day before Easter and getting haircuts to look good for Sunday morning gatherings.

Things turned frantic at about 2 p.m.

Stubbs said she heard a boom, which she didn’t think was too unusual at first since the barbershop is located near The Balloon Squad store and the kids play area in front of JCPenney. But then came a second boom, and then what Stubbs said was the unmistakable sound of rounds being fired rapidly from a gun.

“The mall scattered. People were pulling their kids out of the play area, people were dropping food, people were dropping their wallets and took off,” Stubbs said. “Everyone was frantic.”

Stubbs, along with the barbershop customers and other employees, also sought safety. They pulled down the gate at the front of the shop before heading to the back area where there are no windows, Stubbs said.

They were only in the back of the store for a few moments before Stubbs and another employee went back out to see what was happening. That’s when she heard someone in front of the store say, “She’s dead.”

The person was talking about a woman who had been shot and was on the floor in front of the store Trendsetter. There was another woman down inside the store and there was glass everywhere from the shattered front window of another store, according to Stubbs.

Trendsetter is two storefronts down from the Gap, where a 911 caller told the Columbia Police Department shots were fired, according to Chief Skip Holbrook.

While injured in the shooting, neither woman was killed.

Stubbs said she found out for herself when she ran from the barbershop to the side of the woman outside of Trendsetter who was in hysterics.

“I could tell she was alive and said ‘Thank God,’” Stubbs said. “I asked her, ‘where are you hurt? Where were you shot?’ And she said her leg.”

Along with Stubbs, a man, who turned out to be an off-duty EMT, tended to the gunshot victim. The man used a knife to cut the woman’s jeans open to assess her wound.

“It was a clean wound,” Stubbs said. “Small in the front, but exploded out the back.”

In spite of the violent injury, Stubbs said the woman was fortunate the bullet hadn’t hit an artery and she was not in danger of bleeding to death.

Still, Stubbs said she took a cape from the barbershop, which she and the man fashioned into a tourniquet on the woman’s leg to stop the limited bleeding.

While the off-duty EMT went inside Trendsetter to check on the other woman who had been shot, Stubbs said she remained by the side of the initial victim. Stubbs said she held the woman’s hand and tried to reassure her that she would be OK.

By that time, law enforcement officers were swarming the mall, but Stubbs noticed the EMTs who responded to the shooting still had not reached her part of the mall because they were so busy tending to shooting victims in the area near the food court.

The shooting victim’s husband and children soon found them, and officers also provided help, putting what Stubbs said was a “proper tourniquet” on the leg to treat the wound.

That’s when Stubbs went back to the barbershop, and it began to dawn on her what she had done.

“In hindsight, it was not the smartest thing to do because the shooter could still be there,” Stubbs said. “I didn’t think of the magnitude of it until later. ... I’m glad nobody died.”

Neither Stubbs nor anyone else in the barbershop was among the 14 people who Columbia police said were injured in the shooting and the melee that followed as people fled to exits.

After sheltering in place until about 2:50 p.m., the customers and employees in the barbershop were told to leave by police, Stubbs said. Once outside, Stubbs said it took a long time to get out of the parking lot and drive away from the mall with so many people leaving at once.

While she’s a nursing student and has worked as a lifeguard in the past, Stubbs said she’s never experienced anything like what happened Saturday.

“I’ve helped people before, but never in a trauma like this,” Stubbs said. “I’m a student, but you want to try to help. It’s what we as humans are called to do. If you can help, you should.”

Stubbs is a part-time employee at the barbershop. She said she’s dealing with Saturday’s traumatic events, and has some concern about returning to work at the scene of the shooting.

Although she could quit, Stubbs said she plans to be at the mall for her next shift.

“It will be scary but I have great coworkers to support me,” Stubbs said. “I can’t live in fear. I’ll be at work.”


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